Two Questions to Help You Figure Out What Makes You Happy

wondering what makes us happy
One of life’s cruel ironies is the fact that we are made to want to be happy and yet many of us struggle to know what in the hell makes us happy.

I know tons of people who find themselves lost or confused, feeling completely unsure of where they want to go next. “Do what makes you happy,” people say, and the response in our heads is, “Screw you.”

Because that’s not so easy.

And why is that? If wanting to be happy is normal (and I think that it is), why don’t we just automatically know how to be happier?

There are lots of possible answers to that. It could be that we are told so often what we should do that we forget what it is we want. It could be that we are told so many things by so many sources – family, friends, media, society – that we forget what our own voice sounds like. It could be that our values conflict – we struggle to reconcile what we enjoy, for example, with what will provide food for our family. It could be that humans are really, really bad at predicting our own futures.

There many reasons why figuring out what makes us happy is hard. Sorting through that is a process that takes longer than the few minutes it takes to read a blog post, but this can be a start.

Ask yourself these two questions (which I’m totally co-opting from a speech Gretchen Rubin gave at WDS earlier this month):

1. Whom do you envy, and why?

I heard this question for the first time when I was sitting in a concert hall in Portland listening to Gretchen Rubin speak from the stage. “You,” I thought immediately, “I envy you, because you get to write and speak about happiness all the time.”

And that’s how I knew that I was on the right track.

When I go onto Facebook, the people that I envy the most are those posting travel photos and photos from impressive athletic feats. I want to go to more places and I want to overcome my fear of my body.

2. What did you do for fun when you were 10 years old?

When Gretchen asked this question I instantly remembered making up dance routines with my neighbor and performing for no one on the bus bench outside our house. I don’t know if I was exactly 10, but this was the very first thing I thought of when I remembered having fun as a kid.

I’m not planning to join a dance troupe, but maybe I’ll look for a local Zumba class. Or maybe I just need to get my butt on stage doing more speaking. Maybe I’ll let that memory percolate until the kernel of it becomes more obvious.

Now it’s your turn.

Whom do you envy and why?

What did you do for fun when you were 10 years old?

I hope you’ll share your answers in the comments.

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  1. el-e-e says:

    1. I envy Nataly Kogan, for one, because her work life just seems like it’s more FUN than work – “alternative” workplace, you know? Happy hours at work? Lots of social interaction among coworkers. I don’t have that. I also envy my friends with (and this is SO shallow) beautiful homes & trendy decor. I guess that’s a materialism thing but maybe (I’d like to think) it’s some kind of creativity in me that wants to get out? And I very much envy people who have flexible schedules and/or the summers off.

    2. When I was 10, I LOVED to jump on the trampoline for fun. By myself, even. Oddly, I’ve found a trampoline fitness place near my home/work and so of course I really want to try out “Sky-Robics.”
    el-e-e’s most recent post: Fashion by KT

    • Miss Britt says:

      Thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate that it’s a pretty vulnerable thing to share what you envy.

      And? I envy Nataly sometimes too! Did you know she actually works in Boston AND San Francisco? That kind of jet setting sounds so adventurous to me.

  2. Nancy says:

    I envy author Charlene Li. She gets to learn and think and write and research and talk and teach about how people are connecting and leading. She is incredibly smart, totally authentic, and very approachable. She inspires me to look at things differently and ponder at a higher level.

    When I was 10, I loved to read and write and talk…a lot.

    Like you, it sounds like I’m on the right track. :)

  3. Sarah says:

    I love these questions – they definitely made me think.

    1. People who write for a living.
    2. Draw. Read. Play in the woods.
    Sarah’s most recent post: You Write the Title III

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